There was a time in my life when I didn’t have friends.
None. Zero. Zilch.
I was that kid sitting by himself at lunch. Socially awkward, painfully shy, a bit of a nerd, and overweight. Not a great combination when you’re in middle school and trying to fit in.
Turns out, I would never fit in.
But that didn’t mean I’d never make friends.
It took several years, lots of trial and error, and a bit of finding myself, but I eventually figured out how to make friends. First, I had to unlearn the habits, actions, and beliefs which had been holding me back.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my own missteps, along with negative traits I’ve seen in other people. If you’re still eating lunch alone, make sure you aren’t doing any of these 6 things:
1. Be needy. People aren’t attracted to neediness. This is true for dating, friendships, and even sales. People can smell desperation a mile away and it’s a huge turnoff. An unhealthy need for another person suggests weakness and places a burden on the needed party. Learn to keep your relationships in perspective and realize your true self-worth. Ironically, when you care less what people think of you, you’ll find more people want to be with you.
2. Put yourself down. A little self-deprecating humor can go a long way, but being hypercritical about your faults will just invite others to join you. Whether you know it or not, you could be setting up potential conflicts later. For example, if you harp on your constant tardiness, you’re going to run into more problems when you are running late. Being hard on yourself teaches others how to treat you. Show yourself respect and your friends are more likely to do so.
3. Put other people down. Okay, I admit it – gossip can be fun. Especially when you’re making fun of that clueless jerk at the office who thinks way too highly of himself. But if all you do is criticize other people, I can only imagine what you say about me when I’m not around. A good rule of thumb is to not say anything about others which you wouldn’t say to their faces. And if you do gossip, try and keep it to a minimum and focused on people like that clueless jerk. If you trash more people than you speak nicely of, you’ll find it hard to make real friends.
4. Be negative. Misery loves company, as the old saying goes. And it’s right, people often find solace in sharing their problems with others. However, if that’s all you do, you’re sabotaging your relationships. Nobody wants to be around a mood anchor all the time. For one, it’s suffocating. For two, it isolates you from those who are happy. If your best friend just got a promotion, she’s a lot less likely to celebrate with you if she thinks her good news will bring you down. Eventually, your negativity will isolate you from people who are genuinely enjoying their lives. This can be a tough cycle to break free from once you’re in it, so try to stay positive.
5. Talk more than you listen. We’ve all been in a conversation with someone who is just going through the motions, not listening to a word you’re saying, waiting for the moment they can tell their story. One of the most important things you can do as a friend is to listen to others. This shows you care about them and what they have to say. Who knows, if you keep your mouth shut long enough, you just might learn something!
6. Pretend to be someone you’re not. People are social animals, sometimes sliding in and out of skins more frequently than Lady Gaga wardrobe changes. While this may work in getting people to like you and gaining popularity, it won’t garner you any true friends. Be yourself. Embrace your inner weird. Eventually, you will find your tribe – people of similar nature who will appreciate your unique personality.
Perhaps the most important rule in friendship is to simply be a friend.
Got any advice on what to do and what not to do when making friends? Or just some thoughts on this advice? Leave a comment below.
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